Researchers See Benefits of Omega-3s on Vision and Cognition
Researchers are seeing more benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (omega-3s), such as their ability to help prevent and slow age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that is the leading cause of severe vision loss in older people. Fish consumption also seems to benefit seniors by thwarting dementia and the omega-3s in fish may improve cognition in adolescents and children. New research in these areas is described in the September 2009 PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life e-newsletters.
In 10 years of follow-up, the Blue Mountains Eye Study in Australia reported that older adults who ate fish weekly and those with the highest intakes of omega-3s from all sources were significantly less likely to develop early AMD. In U.S. research, late stage AMD was delayed in people who had the highest intakes of seafood omega-3s plus a diet with a low glycemic index (minimal impact on blood sugar levels after consumption).
Eating fish regularly also seems to help prevent dementia. A large study in several low- and middle-income countries found that fish consumption was associated with a lower prevalence of dementia in adults aged 65 or older.
"Fish consumption appears to be protective in most, if not all, populations," said Joyce Nettleton, D.Sc., editor of the PUFA Newsletter and Fats of Life. "This has clear implications for reducing the burden of mental illness in aging populations worldwide."
Seafood omega-3s may benefit mental health and brain function in younger people, too, according to other research. In toddlers, those whose mothers had higher intakes of the omega-3 DHA had greater attention and were less easily distracted compared with toddlers of low DHA mothers. Older children who consumed a spread enriched with seafood omega-3s for six months had significantly improved verbal learning ability and memory. In Sweden, adolescent males who ate fish more than once a week scored significantly higher on intelligence assessments than males who ate fish less than once a week.
"These studies are among the first to document cognitive improvements with greater fish or omega-3 consumption in childhood and adolescence," Nettleton noted. "It appears that omega-3s may benefit people of all ages."